Thursday, September 25, 2008


Is bankruptcy a possibility for you? For your ex? Are you worried about how it will affect the financial terms of your divorce or separation?

Bankruptcy cannot discharge court-ordered obligations of child support, alimony or equitable distribution.  That means that even if you declare bankruptcy, you must pay support to your family.  It also means that if there is any money that will be divided among creditors, the family comes first.  

But what if you are not legally married?  Or if you are and you and your ex  just want a legal separation, not a divorce? Many couples who mediate or go through the collaborative process want a separation agreement, without planning to file it in court.  They are legal contracts, but the child support or "palimony" are not court-ordered.  Would those be discharged from bankruptcy?  Well, it seems that public policy would dictate that whatever money there is should still go to the family first.  But why risk it? 

You and your ex can agree to let the other know if you are thinking of declaring bankruptcy, to give the other a chance to go to family court to get a court order for child or "spousal" support.    That would keep your priorities straight - and make sure your kids get fed before the credit card companies.

If only the federal government thought that way!  

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are You Being Heard?

A visitor to Jerusalem goes to the Wailing Wall.  He sees a rabbi there, praying.  He asks the rabbi what he is praying for.  
  "Peace in the middle east," the rabbi says.  
  "How long have you been praying?" our visitor asks.
  "Every day for 25 years!"
  "And how is it going?  Do you think we are making progress?" our friend asks.
  "It's like talking to a wall!"  The rabbi exclaims.

I've noticed that one of the most powerful aspects of mediation is simply to be listened to.  

Often when a couple has been fighting, they each simply feel that they are misunderstood.  So it can be very validating - and perhaps healing - when I listen deeply to that point of view.  And it sends a message to the other person that that point of view is worth taking the time to understand.  

The quality of the mediation has a lot to do with the quality of the listening.  It's hard to explain that, but I really believe it is true.